Disclaimers: see Chapter 1
Chapter 6 Hallowed Souls
Janska looked over at her daughter, her heart feeling heavy with concern. It had taken three days to get to the nearest Mage Gate and Cerys hadn't improved in those days; Janska was beginning to become really worried. The mother had hoped that being out in the fresh air and suns of her homeland would help Cerys' strength and mental calmness return. Instead, the Warder was still barely sleeping at night and was nervous and distracted during the days. Dangerous for a warrior, Janska knew.
The mother once again accessed her daughter's condition. Cerys looked horrible with dark circles under her eyes, she was too thin and her hands were shaking all the time. Janska had seen some students get addicted to the magick or even some of the mind altering herbs of the region; Cerys reminded the former Warder of someone coming off one of these addictions.
They managed to avoid several of Jalek's patrols but Janska still sighed with relief when they entered the safety zone surrounding the Mage Gate.
Cerys glanced over and managed a small smile for her mother as she prepared the fire for the evening.
"What are you thinking, Mom?"
"About the Mage Gates and the vast differences between the Realms," Janska admitted.
"One of the few things we haven't revealed about our world," Cerys nodded.
"The Watchers are already envious of our magickal gifts, unaware that their very society would make learning magick like we do almost impossible," Janska commented as she added more spices to the meal she was preparing.
"Their lack of connection with the land and with everyone else," Cerys reasoned.
"Yes," Janska nodded. "After retiring from being a Warder, you know I spent the time learning what mage giftings I had. They aren't near powerful enough to become a Mage but a little bit more than a backwoods witch."
"I've never been to the Scribes," Cerys mentioned, hoping to draw more conversation and information out of her mother. It felt good to have the time with her mother. Despite the talk of being closer than most Terrains, Cerys hadn't seen much of her mother over the years. Both on their own paths of fighting the darkness that enveloped the rest of their family and even Cerys' mate. That was the price the Warders and most of the Mages paid, having to be away from their families, friends, and even their own realms for long periods at a time.
"I've been a few times," Janska said thoughtfully, putting the pot over the fire. "They don't encourage frequent visits."
"What's it like? I never took the time to find out about the Scribes and Mages," Cerys admitted.
"Well, when the Dark Powers and those of the Light came to an equal balance, both sides were either going to destroy the world or hold each other back," Janska began explaining. "Several Mages banded together to help maintain that balance. They declared their neutral stance between the two sides and started building spots throughout the realm. They built libraries of knowledge and trained Scribes to keep the records. To constantly add to them and share the knowledge among all the libraries. The information is there for anyone to seek out. The Scribes and Mages don't restrict access to the scrolls and books and don't judge what someone is going to do with the information."
"How does that maintain the balance?"
"If both sides have powerful Mages and both know the same magick and the same spells, again it's a stalemate," Janska smiled. "The Mages declared the land within 10 marks to be Safe Zones, no one is allowed to attack or molest anyone in those zones. If I tried to use my magick against someone while in this zone, it'll backlash and probably kill me."
"The Gates are like portals?"
"Yes, they transport the seeker to the nearest library," Janska continued. "No one knows where they are. The Scribes and Mages want it kept that way. When we pass through a Gate to leave the library, it'll send us to another Gate so no one can wait to ambush us when we leave the Safe Zone."
"Clever," Cerys admitted. "What are we seeking?"
"I'm not sure, I want to talk to the Scribes, and whatever High Mages are around, about you, my daughter," Janska said calmly. "Something is happening to you that I haven't seen with any other Warder."
Cerys frowned and added absently another log to the fire.
"I've seen Warders become very fond of the Terrains and their land and even wish they could stay on their side," Janska said. "I've even seen a couple fall in love but never anything like this. They grieved for leaving their lovers behind, or the lovers followed them and they dealt with the ghoul issues."
"I don't want that for Annie," Cerys whispered. "She has a small son. Ghouls are so despised here."
"Yes, the Warders and ghouls I know retreated to the cities and villages that barely exist because of the recent wars. They get lost in the madness of those just trying to survive the Mage Wars."
"What's happening to me, Mother?"
"I don't know, it's almost like you're suffering withdrawals from a drug or something," Janska frowned.
"Not from Annie's blood or those who gave willingly, none of them used chemicals," Cerys muttered.
"I didn't think so, this is more like an illness of the soul, like something has been torn from you," Janska commented. "This shouldn't be happening between you and a Terrain and not only after three days with her. It should have happened between you and your mate."
"You think it's a soul pairing?" Cerys asked softly.
Janska frowned and looked at her daughter's stunned face.
"I don't know," she finally admitted. "I know that it can't be. We know that souls don't cross the realms so she can't be your soul bond but your reaction is like one who has lost their soul-half."
"I don't think I've seen a soul-bond couple before," Cerys said thoughtfully.
"I've only met two in my life, once on this side and once among the Terrains," Janska commented. "It's rare on both sides. I wish we knew how your Annie was handling things."
"You look like hell, Annie," Jeannie commented when the writer climbed into her car the next day. "What's going on?"
"I don't know," Annie growled, adjusting the seat belt over her jacket as Jeannie pulled away from the curb. "I can't sleep, I can't eat, I can't concentrate. I'm forcing myself to focus on the book idea and get words into the laptop but it's a struggle."
"Sounds like love," Jeannie snapped, a touch of bitterness in her voice.
"Jeannie, you don't have to do this," Annie frowned.
"You're my friend, Annie," Jeannie said, her face relaxing slightly. "I don't agree with the Council about this. We should be finding a way to help our Watchers and Warders; not treating them like paroled criminals that need constant watching."
"Why is it so damned important to keep Warders from staying on this side?"
"Power, it all comes down to power," Jeannie admitted. "That arrogant bitch was right the other night. Humans think we're at the top of the food chain in all aspects. It's one reason the government fights so hard to deny the existence of ET's. If the general public truly believed that there was other intelligence out there then the entire fabric of society could be in jeopardy."
"Isn't that a little extreme?"
"No, think about it," Jeannie insisted. "Almost everyone in the world believes in a deity that created the universe, the Earth and made humans as supreme over all of it. If they found out there's other realms or intelligence on other planets that don't share our same values, then that belief system falls apart. What do you do when you find out your omnipotent God is just one on a larger playing field and he's not as powerful as you thought and you're not king of the world?"
Annie sat pondering the question carefully.
"It's not just our government trying to maintain power," she said thoughtfully.
"No, it's the human race trying to maintain their power," Jeannie agreed. "Let it get out that vampires do exist and prey on humans and that might just begin the process of unraveling man's fragile belief systems."
"But why recruit me as your writer then? You want the word about vampires to get out but don't want anyone to believe them? How twisted is this logic?"
"I know," Jeannie smirked. "The Council didn't quite explain it logically to me either. They want just enough people to know so we can gain new recruits to the Watchers and Hunters but not the general public at large."
"Pull in those who might be believers so they can keep an eye on them and get those people with program?" Annie ventured and smiled at Jeannie's surprised expression.
"Oh God, I hadn't thought of that," the editor muttered.
"Would make sense. The book would grab those who might be open enough to believe in vampires. The Watchers would get them and train them and they'd keep quiet so as to keep the status quo," Annie reasoned.
"Wow, sneaky bastards," Jeannie growled.
"Where are we headed?" Annie asked, finally paying attention to the road and changing the subject.
"To see a hacker friend of mine," Jeannie mumbled, pulling onto one of the many freeways in the Bay Area.
Cerys gritted her teeth against the pain and the flashes of energy swirling around her as she and Janska stepped into the Mage Gate. Jumping through Gates and Portals always made Cerys a little sick to her stomach and messed with her equilibrium.
At least this Gate jumping was shorter than jumping through a Portal. The Warder shook her head and looked around cautiously.
The area looked like a courtyard and Cerys was relieved to see Janska on her hands and knees next to her.
"Mom," Cerys managed to whisper.
"It's okay, young one," Janska said as she got to her feet. She bent over to help her daughter up and reflected how thin Cerys was getting.
"Greetings, seekers," a musical voice caused both mother and daughter to look up into the eyes of the tallest woman Cerys or Janska had ever seen in all their travels. The woman had bright red hair; so bright and red that it was almost painful to look at, and her eyes were a bright violet color. She was dressed in a simple pale green gown with gold highlights and gold bracelets.
"Greetings, honored Scribe and Mage," Janska replied formally.
"I am called Rysla," the woman said. "How can I help in your search?"
"I am Warder Janska and my daughter Warder Cerys. We seek not a spell nor ritual," Janska began to explain, keeping with formal speech as Cerys regained her balance. "We seek advice and answers."
Rysla moved forward slightly and lifted Cerys' chin to look the Warder deep in the eyes, for a moment.
"This one is soul sick," she announced.
Janska looked relieved and nodded.
"Come with me," Rysla said simply and Janska took Cerys' arm as they followed the Mage.
Cerys glanced around at the large stone building they were approaching with appreciation. It was larger than her father's castle and he had been lord over a vast expanse of land and everything on it. The main building was larger than his main castle and Cerys spotted several buildings that seemed to surround the main building.
Rysla led the way among the green hedges and beautiful flowers that Cerys had forgotten survived in her realm. Flowers with such fragrances that could overwhelm the senses and make one dizzy.
Janska tightened her grip on Cerys' arm and Rysla looked back and grabbed the other one.
"I'm alright," Cerys protested as her legs gave out.
Janska helped Cerys to the ground and cradled her daughter's head.
"I will bring a stretcher and help," Rysla said and disappeared.
"What's happening, Mama?" Cerys asked softly.
"You haven't called me Mama since you were young," Janska smiled, stroking Cery's black hair away from her forehead. "I don't know, the Mages should be able to help."
Cerys closed her eyes, putting her trust in her mother.
The Warder didn't even open her eyes when she felt gentle hands lifting her onto a stretcher.
"Didn't we do this already?" she complained, remembering her rescue from her brother.
"Shhh, let them help you," Janska's voice floated to her.
"Okay, Mom," Cerys agreed.
Hands carried her somewhere and then lifted her into a bed. She felt a cool, damp cloth being placed on her forehead and someone checking her pulse.
"Send for the Healer Mage," someone ordered.
"Do you know what's wrong?" Cerys heard Janska asking.
"Her soul is unbalanced," someone said. "When did she lose her mate?"
"Over a turn of seasons," Janska answered.
"That's not possible," another voice argued. "This wouldn't take this long!"
"She was on the other side for almost a full turn of the seasons," Janska explained.
"The Warder still wouldn't be suffering like this," the first voice insisted. "This is a soul being ripped apart from its true half, its true destined mate."
"Oh Sweet Maker," Janska muttered. "I was afraid of this."
"Who is the soul she grieves for?" the second voice asked.
"A Terrain," Janska responded.
"That's not possible," the first voice protested.
"Oh by the Arisen One," the second one muttered. "It can't be, can it?"
"She is soul bound to a Terrain?" the first one asked in disbelief. "We can't mate with them!"
"Then tell me that's not what we're seeing, Sister," the second voice insisted.
"Where is that Healer Mage?" the first voice growled.
"On his way," Rysla answered and Cerys let herself drift off into the darkness.
Annie blinked as she felt the car stopping and Jeannie putting on the parking brake. The writer looked around and was surprised to see they were in a warehouse area, probably near one of the many docks dotting the San Francisco Bay area.
"Where are we?" she asked.
"Nowhere you'd want to be after dark," Jeannie admitted. "We're going to visit a friend of mine that occasionally helps the Watchers when our own hackers can't get through something."
"What do you mean?" Annie asked as she opened the door and pulled her coat closed.
"Sometimes a government agency stumbles across a vampire or a Warder and we use Tech to get through into their systems to erase files or download false information," Jeannie explained.
"Hacker names," Jeannie shrugged and started down a narrow passage between two warehouses. A passage filled with broken crates, garbage, cardboard boxes that looked like they were occupied at night, and broken glass everywhere.
Annie was not amused and glad that she left Travis with a sitter.
Jeannie stopped at a corrugated tin door that had been spray painted by graffiti artists so many times that Annie was convinced that the paint layers were probably 7 layers thick. Jeannie pounded on the door twice and then hesitated before pounding three more times.
"Jeannie," Annie said softly, trying to work past a headache and the smells from the small alleyway.
"It's okay, trust me," Jeannie insisted.
The door opened with a loud screech that grated on Annie's irritable nerves and then opened wide. Jeannie immediately moved inside the door and grabbed Annie's jacket, pulling her inside. The door slammed shut with a bang and Annie could hear several locks sliding into place, including a metal bar across the door.
What was very disturbing was the total darkness they were in and the sense that someone was with them.
Annie blinked and growled when a flashlight beam hit her face. "Hey!"
"I don't know her, Jeannie," a young male voice complained.
"She's a Watcher in training and my friend," Jeannie responded, reaching out to lower the flashlight.
Annie saw a young man in the odd lighting of the flashlight, a short man with dark hair and eyes. Other than the army jacket and jeans, the writer couldn't tell much else about him.
"This is against our policy, you know that," the young man growled.
"Tech, her name is Annie and she's with me," Jeannie insisted.
Tech glared at both of them for a moment and then nodded. He rudely shoved past Annie and Jeannie started to follow him across the empty and dusty large warehouse. Annie followed reluctantly to the metal stairs that led to the second floor.
Tech quickly began climbing the stairs.
"Why did you bring her? You could have come by yourself," Tech complained.
"To show her what I'm doing and what I'm having you do," Jeannie explained.
"So, to build her trust with you," he grumbled, "You endanger your trust with us?"
"Yes," Jeannie admitted.
"Goddamn Watchers," he growled as he reached the top of the stairs. "You're worse than the fucking government."
"Yes," Jeannie agreed amiably with a small grin.
Janska watched Cerys tossing on the cot with a worried face. Her daughter had lapsed into a troubled sleep, a kind of sleep that wasn't helping her recover her strength. The weather was cold and a chill swept through the stone castle that even a fireplace in each room couldn't totally counter and Janska was worried; Cerys was sweating and thrashing as if in a fever.
Janska quickly looked up as the door opened and Rysla entered with another mage. The man closed the space in a graceful motion and knelt down beside Cerys.
The worried mother watched Cerys continue to thrash on the cot as the Healer Mage laid his hand on her forehead and over her heart.
"Annie!" Cerys cried in her fever-like state.
After a moment the healer pulled back and looked over at Rysla and Janska, his brows furrowed in concern and puzzlement.
"Let us talk in one of the libraries," he suggested and led the two women down the hall as another Scribe was sent in to watch over Cerys.
Janska paced restlessly as Rysla and the Healer Mage sat down in comfortable chairs. She glanced around at the shelves that ran from floor to the high ceiling with scrolls and books, more than Janska could ever count. Ladders were positioned on each wall, for access to the higher shelves. The former Warder realized the Healer Mage had said "one of the libraries," and was duly impressed with the amount of knowledge the castle must hold. The two times Janska visited through a Mage Gate, the libraries been smaller.
"I am Kethar," the Healer Mage said calmly. "I know that you are Warder Janska and that is your daughter Warder Cerys."
"Yes, Mage Kethar," Janska nodded. "Can you tell me what is wrong with my daughter?"
"Yes, the other Mages were correct in their assessment," Kethar began explaining. "Your daughter has lost her soul bound mate and is grieving."
"Cerys lost her mate over a year ago Terrain time; she became evil and stayed in their Realm for the power," Janska explained.
"That wasn't her soul mate," Kethar confirmed. "This level of grieving is recent. What others has she been involved with?"
"She just got back from the Terrain Realm," Rysla continued.
"What about since then?" Kethar questioned.
"Only her brother and me; a few around the village but nothing close," Janska said. "She was hurting when she came back."
Kethar frowned. "I must spend some time with her to know for certain."
"Is she soul bound to a Terrain?" Rysla demanded bluntly.
"I believe it must be possible because it just might be in front of us," Kethar shrugged. "It isn't logical to ignore something when all other possibilities have been eliminated."
"Why is she being hit so hard?" Janska demanded.
"You know Warders are more sensitive," Kethar pointed out. "Heightened senses and heightened emotions. When they fall in love it's intense and for keeps."
"How will you know for sure?" Janska asked.
"I'll will work with one of the other Healer Mages to try and stop the decline," Kethar explained. "Then we shall work with her and see if we can 'read' her spirit and soul. There's a chance we can see the links to the other soul and where it is."
"And if it's the Terrain?" Rysla asked.
"Then we have problems," Kethar said seriously.
"Okay," Tech finally said, bringing Annie's head up from her arms on a table.
"Okay, what?" Annie asked in a sullen voice.
"I can't believe that you had me hack into the Watcher's computer," Tech complained.
"What did you find?" Jeannie demanded.
"They haven't issued any negative orders about your friend there," Tech said slowly, reading through files and his notes. "The Council suggests having her computer and phone tapped and her under surveillance, especially any contact between the two of you."
"Me?" Jeannie asked, her voice reflecting her surprise.
"Yeah, seems they're aren't sure of your commitment when it comes to Annie," Tech answered.
"Damn, we'll have to keep them off-balance," Jeannie muttered. "If they suspect we're stepping out of bounds, they'll kill us both."
"What's up, Jeannie," Tech demanded as Annie lowered her head again.
The writer felt horrible, she couldn't sleep, wasn't interested in food and couldn't focus on anything, including her writing.
"Well, my friend over there went and fell in love with a goddamn Warder and apparently it runs both ways," Jeannie complained.
"You're trying to do what?" Tech demanded. "Get yourself and them killed? Your damned Watcher Council is worse than the CIA."
"Probably," Jeannie shrugged. "It just feels right, it felt right to bring them together and it feels right to get them back together."
Tech frowned, looking at the Watcher and editor closely.
"You do have a touch of the gift," he finally muttered.
"Gift?" Jeannie asked and Annie raised her head, sensing the surprise in Jeannie's voice.
"You know damned well what I'm talking about," Tech growled. "You know your answers aren't in a computer."
"Where do I go?" Jeannie asked.
"The Rrom might have some answers," Tech said reluctantly.
"Rom?" Annie asked with a frown.
"Double Slavic 'R'," Tech mumbled. "Romany, Rom, Romi, gypsy."
"Where do I find answers among your people?" Jeannie asked and Tech looked surprised.
"You knew I was Rrom?" he asked.
"I had you checked out too," Jeannie grinned.
"Damn, paranoid Watchers!" he complained but with a smile.
"Where do we go?" Jeannie asked again.
"I'm going to have to call you," Tech said reluctantly. "Most of us don't have fixed addresses or phones."
"All right, I'm going to take Annie home. You've got my cell phone number," Jeannie said, standing up and touching Annie's arm.
Annie blinked and rubbed a hand over her face.
"Whatever your friend is coming off of, I'd advise getting her home or into detox," Tech said, his voice flat and emotionless.
"She's not on anything, this is all over a woman," Jeannie smirked, helping Annie stand up and the writer stumbled.
Tech frowned and looked at Annie closely.
"Soul mates?" he questioned.
Annie smirked at him. "Don't believe in love anymore or soul mates."
"Yeah, but does love believe in you?" Tech asked cryptically.
"Goddamn hackers," Jeannie complained and slipped the computer geek some folded up money.
"Always a pleasure," Tech said insincerely.
"Let's get you home, Annie," Jeannie mumbled.
Cerys sat up with a moan. "I am getting so tired of waking up hurting and doing the recovery bit," she complained to herself.
"I'm glad, shows you're willing to live and work through it," a voice joined her one-sided conversation and Cerys blinked, adjusting her eyes to the shadows of the room.
Rysla stepped out of the shadows of the corner with a bowl of soup and a goblet of fresh water. Cerys took both gratefully.
"What happened? I don't remember much," Cerys asked, sipping at the soup.
"You were in bad shape when your mother got you here," Rysla answered, sitting down in a wooden chair next to the bed. "Some of the Healer Mages have been working with you, temporarily helping restore the balance of your soul and recharging of your strength."
"Helping me? How long have I been here?" Cerys asked with a frown.
"Four days, mostly in deep and healing sleep," Rysla nodded at Cerys' stunned expression. "You needed some major healing, Warder Cerys."
"I'll bite," Cerys smiled. "What's wrong with me and how do we fix it?"
Rysla grinned, "Typical Warder response," she complained. "If there's a problem, where's the immediate solution? There may not be a solution for this one, warrior."
Cerys frowned. "With the magick available to the Mages, I thought anything was fixable."
"Then tell me about your future plans with the Terrain you've fallen in love with," Rysla countered.
Cerys lost her smirk.
"Yes, Warder," Rysla nodded. "Your mother was right, this is a soul bonding and it is very serious."
"We can't bond with Terrains," Cerys protested.
"Apparently you can," it was Rysla's turn to smirk. "Now the task is to find a way to send you there permanently in a way that the Terrains will accept or to break the bonding so you both can move on."
"Break the bonding?" Cerys questioned with an intense frown.
"What are your first thoughts when I say that?" Rysla asked softly.
"No, I don't want the bond broken," Cerys said quickly. "I want Annie."
Rysla closed her eyes with a sad smile. "I was afraid of that. Can you let her go?"
"I…" Cerys hesitated. "Everything is jumbled inside, very confusing."
"We deal with emotions on a deeper level than the Terrains do," Rysla reminded the Warder. "It makes it difficult for Warders when they return after a long stay in their realm."
"I don't know if I can give her up," Cerys admitted as Rysla took the empty bowl from her.
"I know, we figured that out," Rysla said gently as Cerys fought back tears.
"What can I do? Am I going to get sick again for her?"
"Very possible," Rysla answered and held out her arms to help the Warder to her feet. "The Healers can't stop the decline now that you're awake again. Either we find a way to break the connection, you manage to find the strength to break it yourself and walk away from her or you'll start down again."
"It's the ancient problem," Cerys complained. "I can't stay there and she can't come here."
"It's an additional problem now," Rysla added. "We've never had a soul bonded couple among Terrains and Warders."
"Is there an answer?" Cerys asked, her voice sounding small and serious now.
"There were rumors there was a magickal working that would change a Warder into something more than Terrain but not a vampire," Rysla began as they walked down the hall. "No one outside the ranks of the Mages and Scribes know of this rumor because it's probably a myth and if it isn't, then it's too powerful to leave the walls of the libraries. That would be one spell we would destroy."
"You might get lost in that one, Warder," Rysla admitted. "We shall see what we can find. Right now I want you to visit one of our Healers who is gifted with Sight. You might be able to find out what is going on with your Terrain and we'll see if the soul bonding works both ways."
"If it doesn't?" Cerys asked. "I know it does, but if it didn't?"
"Then we would find a way to break your connection with the Terrain," Rysla answered. "We wouldn't risk the entire existence of the Warder treaty with the Terrains just because you're pining away for some Terrain."
"I appreciate your honesty," Cerys growled.
"Good, we don't pull the truth back under sweet covered layers of frosting here," Rysla said grimly.
"If it is a soul bonding for Annie as well?"
"Then it will add to the problem. We will work on a solution of bringing the two of you together first, then breaking the bond second if we can't find your answer," Rysla explained.
"Alright, that sounds reasonable," Cerys agreed and grinned when she saw her mother sitting at a table in a common room with several other women and two men. The former Warder saw her daughter and smiled in return.
"Come, Warder," Rysla insisted, leading Cerys towards another hallway.
The room they entered was circular and the walls were so smooth they shined. The effect of the white round room was almost disconcerting to the Warder and she reached out to lean against the wall until she was sure of her balance.
The woman sitting at the round table in the center of the room smiled up at the Warder.
"Takes a moment," she said and motioned to the chair across the table from her.
Cerys hesitated until she was sure she wouldn't stumble down the few stairs that led down into the circular space in the center of the room and went to sit in the chair.
The woman sitting across from her was younger than Cerys expected, barely mid youth Cerys judged, the Terrains would judge her to be around 16 years old. The Mage was lean, almost too thin, with a hawk-like face that was sharp and intense. Cold yellow eyes were as sharp and piercing.
Her hair was a golden as her eyes and her skin was almost pale enough to see the veins underneath.
Sitting on the table was a small burner with coals burning and a pyramid shaped smoky quartz crystal.
"I am Makla," the girl introduced herself.
"I'm Cerys," the Warder responded and reluctantly accepted the girl reaching out and taking both Cerys' hands into hers.
"Good working, Makla," Rysla encouraged and closed the door behind her as she left the room.
"I want you to watch the crystal, Warder," the girl instructed. "Focus only on the lines, the cracks, the rainbows in the crystal and let yourself get lost in them. Do you understand?"
"Yes, you want me to alter and trance out," Cerys said and Makla nodded.
"Yes, exactly. In the crystal I want you to search for your Terrain," Makla instructed. "Search for Annie, let your thoughts drift to your memories of her and your time together and then search even further."
Cerys let her eyes un-focus slightly and looked into the crystal, following Makla's instructions. Cerys had been in magickal workings before and knew the basics of altering and sending herself into a trance as the young Mage began chanting, drawing her energy into the circle of the room.
Cerys' eyebrow furrowed in question when she felt her hands being shifted in Makla's grip and a sudden heat hitting them.
"There is no pain, Warder," Makla intoned. "No pain, pain is fear, there is no fear. Fear is hate, there is no hate here. Strength in love, love is Annie, find Annie."
Cerys growled in her throat but continued to concentrate on the crystal, fighting past the distraction of the discomfort of her hands. The Warder felt her hands beginning to hurt and her body starting to sweat.
"Go past the pain, find Annie," the Mage intoned.
Cerys felt the pain building and fixed her gaze on a rainbow inside the crystal and felt something clicking into place as the pain disappeared. Then she fell into the crystal, mentally.
Cerys closed her eyes and let the memories of Annie sweep over her as well as to comfort her. Images of Annie and Travis; of vampires turning into dust as Annie took their heads off with shotgun blasts, of Annie offering her neck and blood; of the young blonde sleeping and peaceful; images of Annie holding her close and kissing her; memories of Annie's eyes, hair and smile.
Then the images shifted and Cerys found that she was looking at Annie sleeping, only the Warder didn't know this bed or this room. She realized with a start that she was seeing Annie in the Terrain realm and not a memory. Annie was tossing in her bed, moaning in her sleep. Cerys frowned as she saw Travis enter the room with a wet washcloth and hand it to a woman sitting on the edge of Annie's bed.
The stranger placed the cloth on Annie's sweating forehead and drew Travis into her arms as both of them watched Annie struggling in her sleep.
The scene switched to Annie stumbling across a living room to collapse on a sofa as she wrapped her arms around her knees, moaning in pain.
The scene darkened and Cerys opened her eyes reluctantly and found Makla watching her closely. Cerys quickly held her hands up and found them unmarked and not burned.
"Your friend grieves for you," Makla commented.
"Yes, as bad as I was," Cerys nodded, accepting without question that Makla was able to see what the Warder had seen.
"Then we must find a way to bring you two together," Makla said firmly. "The Gods have caused something unheard of to happen and we must follow their wishes."
"The Terrains don't believe in Gods and usually don't listen to the one they do believe in," Cerys said grimly.
"Then we'll have to find a way to convince them," Makla shrugged. "Rysla is waiting outside, please send her in and wait outside."
"Thank you, Mage Makla," Cerys said respectfully, finding it difficult to treat a kid as an Elder but managed to do it.
Annie drank the coke down quickly and accepted the second one from Jeannie with a nod of thanks as they got into Jeannie's car.
They found that the only thing that seemed to break through Annie's fog was caffeine and regular sodas. Much like a junkie without a fix, Annie thought bitterly. I should take out stock in Coca-Cola at this rate to gain back some of my losses.
"Where are we headed?" she asked, "And are we being followed?"
"No, we're headed to my office, supposedly to go over a rough draft of the book you're writing," Jeannie answered. "Everyone, from editors to Watchers, think you've been down with the flu along with Travis. The medicine I've been bringing in feeds that illusion. Waiting in my office will be one of Tech's relatives, a woman with the Gift of Sight."
"Isn't this a little Twilight Zone?" Annie smirked.
"Hey, it wasn't that long ago you didn't believe in vampires, werewolves, magick users, portals and ghouls, either," Jeannie countered.
"Or major conspiracies outside the government either," Annie added. "This relative, she's a gypsy too?"
"They prefer the term Rrom," Jeannie said. "Some Rrom are gypsies but not all gypsies are Rrom, as they tell me."
"Want to explain that?"
"Okay, some groups don't consider other groups to be true gypsies or Rrom," Jeannie said with a shrug. "You've got Slavic, Baltic, Carpathian, Scottish, Irish, Hungarian, Russian and God knows how many other groups of Rrom running around the world. They are impossible to track, handle, control or count."
"And the typical stereotype of a gypsy or Rrom is correct?" Annie asked, pulling out a notebook to take notes. "Fortune telling, reading palms and cards; stuff like that?"
"Sometimes. It was one job they could do while traveling with minimal contact with outsiders," Jeannie explained. "They were experts at horse trading and animal training, metal working, wood workings, things they could do going from place to place. Now they take seasonal jobs, live in trailers, and are still nomadic. It's in the blood."
"Wow," Annie muttered. "I've only seen the stuff on TV and movies."
"Most people have seen gypsies and Rrom and never know it," Jeannie grinned. "They don't look any different than we do except in small details."
"Is the magick real?" Annie asked.
"There is magick in this realm," Jeannie explained. "Some people are naturally gifted; others work very hard at it. Most never get beyond the typical stuff you see among the Wiccans and pagans. Healing spells, finding love spells, things like that. Some magick workers become powerful and others have natural talents that we call supernatural, like fortune telling, seeing things, talking to the dead, etc."
"As powerful as those on Cerys' side?"
"No, humans have to work harder at it and don't reach the same levels apparently, but some with the natural talents do very well," Jeannie commented as they drove to her office. "Like that guy on TV who talks with the dead. He's a natural."
"And the woman we're seeing today can do what?"
"I'm not sure, but we'll find out," Jeannie said calmly as Annie finished off her soda and frowned.
Both women became quiet, lost in their own thoughts as their drive continued.
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